Thoughts on Accessibility

by Dr. Gail H. Mottola, President – Executive Director – Let’s Open Doors

Imagine…this morning it took you about one-half hour to put on your clothes…you took your meds, brushed your teeth and tried to brush your hair, but it was hard…you slowly gathered the items to take with you…you reached for your walker to support you, then slowly and carefully walked to the car…you lifted the walker and put it in the trunk, leaning on the car for support as you walked to the car door and moved inside…so far, just getting ready to go to stores for some sundry but needed items has taken about an hour or so. You take a deep breath, pause…you are able to drive, so that’s the good news.

You arrive at the small mall that has the several stores you need to purchase various items. After taking out the walker from the trunk, you labor up the concrete ramp which has no railings, from which you can fall if you push the walker too closely to the edge, and you reach the sidewalk. You rest, then walk to the first door, which is heavy and still has an old panel type door handle cited as ”NOT ACCESSIBLE” in the American Disabilities Act ADA: Guide for Small Businesses, (2006, p.8). Balancing yourself and your walker, you try to open the door slowly with great effort and awkwardness, using precious energy you need to fight your condition. You back up so you can pull the walker out of the way as you try to pull the stubborn door open. You struggle to pull it open, but now your hand is caught in the wide opened door; it’s hard to release it from the door handle. As your walker holds the heavy door open, you release your hand, this time without injury and you start in, wedging yourself against the heavy door that is pushing you in too fast because the pressure on the door is too highly weighted. You try to rush to avoid it, but whoops, you have to lift the walker over the threshold, and as you do that, you lose your balance a bit because the door is pushing you forward. If you are lucky, your body has reacted quickly enough to stop you from falling sideways with your walker and still with difficulty you make your way inside your favorite store. Internally, you ask yourself, is it worth it? (How long will it remain your favorite?)…and you have three more stores with the same problem to finish your errands. What if you’d planned to stay out lunch after your errands? No, you think, “I have to fight two doors there”. How soon do you say, “I don’t need…” and remain home rather than fight the loss of energy? End of community participation.

What are we doing to our “over 55 year old” population of nearly 500,000 persons, our 252,000 persons with disabilities, or stated another way, over 25% of our population? These individuals are our spouses, fathers, mothers, family members and friends, PATRONS of businesses. We want our population to remain strong and active as long as possible. Yet, we, the people of Hampton Roads, continue to accept old outdated non-accessible doors, dangerous to our welfare, throughout our region. We are unwittingly excluding our disabled and aging population in community life, and we’re not making it any easier for our young families with strollers and gear to enter our businesses. Let’s Open Doors!

Businesses can receive a 50% tax credit up to $5,000 per year and $15,000 annually in tax deductions once spending over $250 for accessibility accommodation. It costs about $3,000 (less the tax-credit of $1375.00) for an automatic door, but low pressured doors and pressure adjustment mechanisms cost less. It only costs approximately $140.00 for ADA compliant door hardware (a loop handle, a round non-obstructed push bar and a closer, which allows the opening and closing pressure to be adjusted.) A wireless doorbell with a plug-into-wall master, costs $29.95. It costs $0.00 to come to the door to accommodate and welcome a patron. Let’s Open Doors is a non-stock VA corporation, a 501(c) 3 public education and advocacy charity. Solutions found on the Let’s Open Doors website www.letsopendoors.net facilitate inclusion for all persons, thus connecting patrons to commerce and community. A goal of Let’s Open Doors’ is to have Hampton Roads be the first region in the nation to care enough about its people to voluntarily make entry doors on existing buildings accessible to all people.

Right now, we can change doors to provide the civil right “equal access to goods and services” by adopting a Let’s Open Doors policy or by asking businesses to use ADA compliant entry door hardware. “Equal access to goods and services” was legislated in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and was restated in the American Disabilities Act of 1990 as Section 504. The Architectural Barriers Act was legislated in 1968, which requires an “ongoing obligation” of all public places, including businesses, to remove such barriers. It is the existing buildings where “readily achievable and affordable” accommodation is needed to eliminate Architectural Barriers. By providing doors with accessible hardware, corrected pressure and timing to close, we keep our population engaged in community longer and healthier.

Kit Kat

Ask Kit Kat – Beware this Plant

Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, which houseplant is dangerous for pets?

Kit Kat: Well, one dog owner learned the hard way that the king sago palm is poisonous. It happened like this. Gail McClung had seen a great deal on sago palms—2 for $47! So she went ahead and brought the palms home. Little did she know that they were poisonous to dogs. Gail had 2 dogs—a border collie and a husky. The border collie went for a part of the root, which contained a concentrated level of the poison, cycasin. It became dangerously ill, and lingered for 10 days before dying of liver failure. The husky faired better. It had only chewed on some leaves. It, too, became ill, but was able to recover. The company, Gardening Express, that supplied the plant to a retailer had no idea of the toxicity of the plant. They have apologized, and are looking into what other plants might be harmful to pets.

So it’s a sad tale that’s really no one’s fault. Just be aware that it is probably never a good idea for pets to chew on plants. Relative to a person, they are small in stature and weight, and their internal organs just can’t handle ingesting plants, especially exotic ones. If possible, keep plants out of your pets’ reach. If you have cats, the best idea might be artificial ones for indoor settings. Cats are very adept at jumping—even onto places you might not think they can reach. I know from personal experience, that cats can even jump up onto mantles. (http://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/pets/why-you-should-never-let-your-pets-near-this-common-houseplant-9-4-2015)

Upcoming Seminars

  • October 8, 2015 – Andrew H. Hook and Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro will speak to caregivers with Home Instead Senior Services regarding Veterans Benefits.
  • October 9, 2015 – Andrew H. Hook will be part of a panel discussion at the 2015 Art of Healthy Aging Forum & Expo on Friday, October 9, 2015, at the  Virginia Beach Convention Center, 100 19th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451.  The forum & expo runs from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 until September 30th (limited seating). $25 at the doorTo register for this event, please click registration.
  • October 20, 2015ATTENTION PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEYS: You are invited to attend a special 1/2 day conference at the Westin Hotel in Virginia Beach centering on ERISA subrogation, incapacitated adults and settlement trusts. Speakers will include Andrew H. Hook and Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, attorneys from Hook Law Center, speaking on Incapacitated Adults and what you should know; Steve Lester and David Place from Synergy Settlements speaking on ERISA subrogation; and a panel discussion on settlement trusts to include James Creel from First Capital Surety & Trust Company. 3 CLE credits can be earning by attending this FREE seminar, “Elder Law Considerations for the Personal Injury Attorney.” Come learn about issues you, as a personal injury attorney, should be considering! Conference hours are 8am – 12:30pm and include a complimentary breakfast buffet at 8am.  Registration is open until October 10, 2015. Register by calling 877.242.0022 and ask for Marci or 757.399.7506 and ask for Debbie. Space is limited so register TODAY!
  • October 26, 2015 – Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro will be speaking at the National Business Institute’s seminar on The Probate Process from Start to Finish in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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